The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today released to the public a report detailing the results of a two-year study to address coastal storm and flood risk to vulnerable populations, property, ecosystems, and infrastructure in the North Atlantic region of the United States affected by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012.
Congress authorized this report in January 2013 in the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 (Public Law 113-2).
The report, known as the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study (NACCS), brought together experts from Federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations and academia, to assess the flood risks facing coastal communities and ecosystems and collaboratively develop a coastal storm risk management framework to address increasing risks, which are driven in part by increased frequency and intensity of storm events and rising sea levels due to a changing climate.
The NACCS provides tools and information, including a nine-step Coastal Storm Risk Management Framework that can be used by communities, states, tribes, and the Federal government to help identify coastal risk and develop strategies for reducing those risks.
The study area includes the entire coastline of Virginia and the Eastern Shore, and identified the City of Norfolk as a focus area for further study. Information specifically related to Virginia is located in Appendix D of the report.
“As a Federal Engineer, I am thrilled over the release of this study because it provides us with a framework to counter the effects of the rising sea-levels to Virginia's coastal communities," said Colonel Paul Olsen, commander of USACE’s Norfolk District. “While this study is a strategic accomplishment for the entire North Atlantic Coast, it should be seen as merely an initial step toward countering the threat to Virginia's coastal communities. What is needed next is congressional approval of set of mid-sized studies, like our emerging Norfolk Comprehensive Study, aimed at mitigating the specific threats to Virginia's specific communities and, in turn, will lead to future projects to protect these extremely vulnerable regions.”
In addition to the NACCS Management Framework, the study offers a number of conclusions, including several findings, outcomes, and opportunities, that can help guide future coastal flood risk reduction efforts at all levels of government.
These include: the importance of land use planning, wise use of floodplains, and strategic retreat as cost-effective risk management tactics; the value in considering the full array of risk reduction measures (e.g., nonstructural, structural, natural and nature-based, and programmatic) in project planning and combining measures, where appropriate; the need for greater institutional alignment and financing; better use of pre-storm planning and post-storm monitoring tools; and better education on flood risk and the availability of flood risk management solutions.
“The North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study is an unprecedented effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in collaboration with our partners to develop a coastal plan that considers future sea levels and climate change,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works. “The report provides a framework for communities that will arm them for the reality of future extreme weather.”
The report also identifies nine high-risk areas along the Northeast coast that warrant additional analysis. These are (in no particular order): Rhode Island Coastline; Connecticut Coastline; New York-New Jersey Harbor and Tributaries; Nassau County Back Bays, New York; New Jersey Back Bays; Delaware Inland Bays and Delaware Bay Coast; City of Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, DC; and City of Norfolk, Virginia.
"Hurricane Sandy brought to light the reality that coastal storms are intensifying and that sea-level change and climate change will only heighten the vulnerability of coastal communities," said Brig. Gen. Kent D. Savre, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Division. "Coastal storm risk management is a shared responsibility, and we believe there should be shared tools used by all decision makers to assess risk and identify solutions. This report provides those tools."
The report and all associated documents and tools are now available at the following webpage: http://www.nad.usace.army.mil/compstudy